KANAGAWA (TR) – One of Japan’s unique forms of rest and relaxation is the ancient art of sensual massage. An example of this can be found at the soapland bathhouse, an oasis within the nightlife scene where beautiful girls give customers a rubdown — in more ways than one.
A masseuse will lather you up in a bathing area and then wash you on an inflatable mattress using her body as a giant sponge. Foreigners, however, are often turned away at such establishments. It’s not surprising at all to see staff waving their hands in front of their noses — or even crossing their arms at the wrist — when gaijin show up.
But with the recent increase in travelers from overseas (over 24 million came in 2016, up from 19 million in 2015), some businesses are now targeting foreign clientele, and the nation’s sex industry is no exception.
Over the summer, the soapland Paradise opened in Kawasaki City, just south of Tokyo. Affiliated with Shibuya-based “delivery health” service Tokyo Hentai Club (THC), the bathhouse caters exclusively to the needs of foreigners.
“The benefit of Paradise is there’s no discrimination here and no time wasting,” says THC manager Alexander during an interview at Paradise, which sponsors The Tokyo Reporter. “The girls that we have here are different from regular Yoshiwara or soapland girls because they actually want to serve foreigners — in other places where foreigners can get in the girls look at them like they’re a burden.”
Welcome to Paradise
Guests arriving at Paradise, located about five minutes’ walk from JR Kawasaki Station, which is easily accessible from Haneda Airport, will notice its soft color scheme, evoking the city of Miami. The bathhouse has nine service rooms and a range of gorgeous gals who are more that willing to get wet with you regardless of where you come from. However, there are signs in the lobby at Paradise asking customers to consult with staff if they’re particularly well endowed, and these aren’t a joke.
For those interested in some wet and wild fun, entry for a session at the hands of one of Paradise’s bathing beauties begins at 20,000 yen for 30 minutes, with extensions of 30 minutes requiring an additional 15,000 yen.
“Most of the girls here speak conversational English, so there’s no communication problems,” says Sakura-chan, one of the girls at Paradise who’s a huge fan of baseball. “I think customers who come here can have a unique experience with services like lotion play, which I learned from a veteran soapland sensei.”
If you’re wondering whether this is all legal, you have good cause. While paid sex is illegal under Japanese law, soapland businesses like Paradise and those in Yoshiwara, the famous historical red-light quarter in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, are merely bathhouses, legally speaking, with female staff members giving customers washdowns; there is no promise that sexual services will be provided in return for cash.
In the history of the soapland, which dates back to the opening of Tokyo Onsen in the ritzy Ginza area of Tokyo in 1951, Paradise is likely the first to target foreigners — and others could be on the way.
“With the success of Tokyo Hentai Club, we found there’s a big demand for these services for foreign customers and we’re going to keep expanding,” says Alexander.